Jason Giambi announced his retirement this week, ending one of the most unpredictable and enjoyable career arcs of any major-league star. Follow along from finish to start, as we reprint all 20 player comments about him from two decades of BP Annuals.

Year Comment
2015 You're excused if you saw Captain Graybeard in the Cleveland dugout and thought he was a coach: The 20-year veteran's mentoring abilities surely brought more value to the ballclub than his way-below-replacement bat in 2014. Terry Francona did everything in his power or anyone else's to maximize Giambi's production: All 70 of Giambi's plate appearances came against righties. As of this writing, he hasn't announced whether he's going to keep making a go of it on the field, but it's hard to think of a team that will want to expend a roster spot on him. On the other hand, it's hard to think of a team that wouldn't want him in the player-coach role Manny Ramirez filled for the Iowa Cubs for a few months last summer.
2014 Rumors are unconfirmed that the Indians plan to bring Jason Giambi back for use only in walk-off home run situations, but if they do nobody could blame them.
2013 Giambi still has patience at the plate, but his other offensive skills disappeared last year. He missed most of the second half due first to a “viral syndrome” and then to a hernia that required offseason surgery. He finished the season on a 2-for-21 run, with his last extra-base hit coming on June 9. Giambi has expressed a desire to resume his quest for 430 homers but the body may not be willing. Perhaps in an effort to hedge his bets, he interviewed for the Rockies managerial vacancy.
2012 Giambi has made a remarkable late-career transition into lefty-swinging masher off the bench, a la Matt Stairs. Coors Field wasn't as much of a factor as you might think, as seven of Giambi's 13 homers in 2011 came on the road. Always a three-true-outcomes hitter, he pushed that approach to the extreme last year, with 49.3 percent of his plate appearances resulting in a home run, walk, or strikeout. Giambi probably could turn on a big-league fastball into his fifties. The only questions now are how long his body holds up and how long he wants to keep playing.
2011 Nearly a decade and a half after Giambi and Matt Stairs made the A’s look like a beer-league softball team, those don’t-spill-my-beer skills continue to pay off for both men. Though running, fielding, and hitting for average have long since ceased being aspects of his game (if the first two ever were), Giambi can still work the count and crush the odd pitch. Curiously, he’s been more effective doing the latter against lefties over the last two years, with nine of his 19 taters coming in the mere 29 percent of his at-bats that have come against southpaws. That makes him a nifty trap as a pinch-hitter for a manager aware enough to lure his opponent into a lefty-on-lefty match-up, but at 40, that may be the last trick this old dog can do.
2010 As exciting as the thought of rekindling past glory can be, reunions usually disappoint, and Giambi’s return to Oakland was like watching old classmates argue their way through an endless, drunken game of H-O-R-S-E. Brought in to help add thunder to a moribund A’s attack, the former MVP suffered through an injury-plagued and ineffective season before earning his August release. Still able to draw walks and launch the occasional home run, Giambi no longer hits for average, hitting .248 from 2003-2008, and he finally sank below the Mendoza line last year. A few big hits during his late-season stint with the Rockies may stoke the interest of AL clubs looking to catch lightning in a bottle, but if Giambi wants to continue playing his springs will soon be sponsored by the letters N, R, and I.
2009 Giambi's season was a roller-coaster that came to center on his upper lip. After beginning with what seemed like a .164/.315/.411 dare to get the Yankees to eat the last year of his contract, and having been failed by his usual slump-busting magic gold thong, he cultivated a mustache. With the caterpillar installed under his nose, Giambi busted out, hitting .310/.438/.613 with 12 homers in May and June. Mustache magic swept Yankee Stadium, but apparently it has a 60-day limit; Giambi cooled to .230/.349/.457 the rest of the way, and the mustache went under the razor for dereliction of duty. A free agent after the Yankees bought out his $22 million option, his new/old employer the A's will get a DH whose walks and power make him productive in spite of his low batting average and who only needs occasional platooning. As for defense, Giambi enjoys putting on the glove and showed he could get through a season in the field without hurting himself, but you could kneecap a fire hydrant and it would still have more range.
2008 Giambi had a good April, but was quickly handicapped by bone spurs in his left heel. No sooner did orthotics ease his pain than he popped the plantar fascia in the foot while jogging the bases after a home run in Toronto in late May. Out of the lineup until August, Giambi went on a short-lived tear after coming off the DL, but quickly went so cold that polar bears took refuge in his boxer-briefs. From May 1 until the end of the season, Giambi batted .192/.333/.389. For this performance, Giambi earned a cool $21 million, the same amount the Yankees will pay him in 2008 before the inevitable buyout of his 2009 option (at a cost of $5 million). Given their outfield/DH logjam, the Yankees have to hope that the former MVP can mount a comeback while playing first base, something that seems unlikely given that he fields with all the agility of a mastodon drowning in the La Brea tar pits. Giambi was an underrated contributor in 2005 and 2006, but it remains to be seen if he can get all his parts moving in the same direction again.
2007 Runs and fields like a 45 played at 33 1/3. Those who grew up in the compact disc era won`t get that reference, but, trust us, it`s slow. He can`t avoid running, but it seems likely that Giambi`s time in the field is done after too many nagging injuries last year. The days of hitting .300 are also gone, but with his great patience and power Giambi will be an offensive asset even as his averages continue to decline. It`s hard to believe, but the Yankees will pay Giambi at least another $47 million (two guaranteed years plus an all-but-certain $5 million buyout of 2009). That`s a lot of moolah for a player who will spend the next two years praying that his bat doesn`t slow as much as his body already has.
2006 While borderline Hall of Famers like Rafael Palmeiro were being destroyed by the steroids scandal, Giambi staged an unlikely escape from his own self-injected nightmare (plus tumor, plus parasites). Giambi did little more than walk in the first two months, as if his batting eye was all that he had left, but then something changed–there has never been a satisfying answer as to what–and the power was back. Once he turned it on, he was immensely productive, leading the AL in walks and OBP and ranking in the top ten in home runs and slugging percentage. Not that he got any faster; Giambi runs as if knee-deep in lobster bisque and at top speed can stretch a double into a close out at first base. On defense, Giambi is as mobile as a pothole, but given his habit of slumping when not in the field, making him a full-time DH is not an option. Over the last three years. he`s batted .217/.384/.414 as a DH vs. .274/.427/.563 at first.
2005 Giambi's year began with questions about possible steroid use, moved on to cancer, and ended with confirmation of his steroid use. In between he had intestinal parasites. Given how slow, how ponderous Giambi was before he came down with every illness this side of beriberi, it's unlikely he will return to anything like the MVP form the Yankees thought they were buying back in 2001. By definition his through-2008 contract would someday be an albatross. That bird has come home to roost (OK, so the albatross doesn't roost. Call the Analogy Police).
2004 Giambi's "off-year," in which he was a top-five American Leaguer according to Equivalent Average (EqA) and Equivalent Runs (EqR), has been blamed on his left knee problem. The patellar tendinitis in the joint isn't going away, and you may remember what a similar injury did to Mark McGwire a few years ago. Post-season surgery didn't fix the problem so much as make it manageable. Look for Giambi to stay productive without approaching the heights of 2000-02, and be a full-time DH who can't run by the end of his contract.
2003 It’s unusually refreshing to see a big-ticket free agent come into the Big Apple, have a good year, not lead the team to the Promised Land, and not catch flack for it. He shared defensive responsibilities at first, which kept Nick Johnson from getting a rusty glove, although he did hit significantly better when he wasn’t DHing. It isn’t a Reggie-sized problem (.344/.461/.674 at first vs. .271/.397/.489 as a DH), but if it becomes an issue, given the financial commitment and Johnson’s modest rookie season, you can understand the Yankees’ willingness to dangle Johnson this winter.
2002 Giambi is a fantastic hitter, combining the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, a great batting eye, and the willingness to execute a plan at the plate. As has been well chronicled, Giambi wanted a no-trade clause to sign a six-year, $90-million deal during the spring, but the A's wouldn't give him the clause. Beane's best course of action was to let him walk; now the A’s can find a reasonable solution at first base for a lot less money and spend the savings either on pitching help, or on locking Barry Zito into a long-term deal.
2001 Jason Giambi has become the A’s riff on Tony Gwynn: he’s a diligent student of hitting, working, studying, and recording what pitchers try to do to him. One of the payoffs has been his dramatic improvement against left-handed pitching, but I guess an MVP award isn’t such a bad payoff either. Whether the A's should sign him long-term is an emotional decision for everybody involved. The organization has a lot of confidence in its ability to identify, develop, and acquire hitting talent, so if push comes to shove, few teams are as well qualified to move on, public image be damned. Do the A’s want to risk alienating fans? Does Giambi want to be just another clueless rich guy, like Mo Vaughn? It will take compromise to kill the big-market/small-market paradigm.
2000 Right now, he’s the franchise’s best left-handed hitter since Reggie Jackson, a title he won't hold for long with Chavez and Ben Grieve in the fold. Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. October, Giambi has talked his way into an interesting niche within the organization. Billy Beane seems to go out of his way to get Giambi's opinions on roster moves. He's obviously the team's most vocal player, so it could just be good politics on Beane's part. It's time to come to terms with the fact that Giambi's glovework is bad. Frank Thomas bad. He’s a Garveyesque pillar of immobility, and having Jaha around keeps him on the field. It's a problem.
1998 Finally at a position he can play well defensively, first base. He hit very well in spurts last season, and I expect him to take a big step forward in 1998. He may not be in the A’s long-term plans; his best value to the club might be as part of a major trade to bring in a legitimate #1 starter such as Randy Johnson.
1997 He’s accused of being all sorts of things: lazy, crazy, unwilling to play with injuries. Beyond all the clubhouse chicanery, gossip, and having incurred the open hostility of Tony LaRussa and Mike Gallego—NONE OF WHICH MEANS A DAMN THING about his ability as a baseball player—what Giambi is is the best left-handed bat the A’s have developed since Dwayne Murphy. He’s good at lofting the ball, and although he’s too old to really be outstanding for years to come, he’s a fine hitter. He’s probably someone who probably needs to wear catching gear to protect himself in the outfield After taking a fall playing on a field that had been ruined by a Raiders’ game, he was severely hampered at the plate over the last two months of the season.
1996 One of Tony LaRussa's MediaTargets [tm]. Hit like crazy in the minors, with a bunch of walks, some occasional power, and a generally looping stroke. Will hit like crazy in the majors, too. The only question is whether or not his glove will survive the test of fire at 3B, or whether or not he'll be stuck behind McGwire. His release of the ball is a bit slow on his throws; sometimes, the fix for this causes a lot of elbow and shoulder injuries. See also Molitor, Paul. I'd put him at third, and I hope Art Howe does the same.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
This is magnificent. Thank you.